Spurs 3 Stoke 0: Potters’ weak inside left channel exposed

A high tempo display saw us win the ball back early and often to take another three Premier League points, as it finished Spurs 3 Stoke 0 at White Hart Lane.

They key was our overloading of central midfield areas, then the ability to attack the left side of the Stoke defence. This area featured stand-in centre back Geoff Cameron and left back Erik Pieters, who was often left exposed by Oussama Assaidi.

Tottenham set up and tactics

Tim Sherwood lined us up again in a 4-4-2 formation and once more the greatest area of interest was in his use of the midfield.

Against a team playing a 4-2-3-1 in Southampton, Sherwood had his midfield quartet play extremely narrow. This was to congest the central areas when we didn’t have the ball, so as to not get outnumbered 3v2.

Here, with Stoke also playing a midfield four, Sherwood had Christian Eriksen playing inside from his starting position on the left. Eriksen offered support to his full back, but spent much of the match drifting in to central locations to outnumber Stoke in the middle.

With us looking to jam Stoke up the field, this meant that we frequently had extra bodies in the centre. Eriksen was aided by Emmanuel Adebayor dropping off the front to help both Moussa Dembele and Paulinho quickly regain possession. This meant that Stoke’s combative duo of Wilson Palacios and Steven N’Zonzi were often outnumbered, even with Stephen Ireland trying to help them.


Tottenham ball recoveries: Spurs 3 Stoke 0.

When possession was regained, we were looking to attack the right side of the Stoke defence through quick movement of the ball, often with one-touch passing.

This area saw Geoff Cameron playing to the left side of the centre back partnership. It also saw Erik Pieters at full back, but Oussama Assaidi offered little cover ahead of the Dutchman. Pieters did well trying to contain Aaron Lennon, but our best chances, as well as all three goals, were created from or scored through the channel between him and Cameron.

Midfield movement

Lennon v Pieters was a focal point for much of the match, but it was also part of a larger midfield movement.

It started with Sherwood opting for two box-to-box midfielders in the centre. The new coach wanted to take advantage of their energy, but also their ability to dribble and go past players. This was highlighted often by Moussa Dembele gliding by opponents, as he did on his goal. But also by Paulinho, who executed 6 successful dribbles in 60 minutes before being knobbled by Charlie Adam. The Scot has previous with injuring Tottenham players and went in over the ball on the Brazilian, rather like he did on a certain Welshman.

The pair were not just beating opponents with the ball at their feet, but also moved it quickly with their passing to keep the tempo up. Dembele in shifting it left and right to move it to the wide players, Paulinho more vertically to probe the inside right channel between Pieters and Cameron. The highlight was the Brazilian’s reverse flick pass with his instep to create a chance for Soldado.


Moussa Dembele horizontal and Paulinho vertical passing, Spurs 3 Stoke 0.

Christian Eriksen, who touched the ball more than any other Spurs player, drifted in to the centre, as he aided Dembele and Paulinho. When Stoke had possession, he shuttled out to the left to help Zeki Fryers against Jonathan Walters and Andy Wilkinson. Once we regained the ball, he moved back in to the middle in order to overload this area. From here he could shoot, hit a through ball or drift in to wide areas on both sides of the pitch to cross.

With us attacking the right side, the main battle was between Aaron Lennon and Erik Pieters. The ball was being quickly worked out to the diminutive winger, often quickly from the centre of the park. From here, Lennon was trying to beat the full back off the dribble, but was frequently stopped. No one attempted more dribbles than Lennon, but no one made more tackles than Pieters.


Aaron Lennon passes received and take-ons attempted, Spurs 3 Stoke 0.

Lennon was all too often attempting to beat his opposite number by going to the by line. This made him predictable and kept our chance count down, but he did have some success. His pull back in the first half saw Adebayor fluff his left footed shot. Another in the second period gave Soldado a great chance, but the Spaniard miss hit a right-footed effort straight at the keeper.

Lennon was rewarded for his efforts with a rare goal. The others, when they arrived, also came from our right, as we attacked Stoke’s weaker left side. Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado were also heavily involved in all three.

Soldado and Adebayor involved once more

The partnership of Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor has really taken off since they were paired together at Southampton. At St. Mary’s the duo were involved in all three strikes and here they were both heavily involved again.

Adebayor was dropping off and using his gigantic frame to hold the ball up. Soldado was also looking to overload the right side and run in-behind through the Stoke inside left channel to expose stand-in centre back Geoff Cameron.

The pair also combined extremely well, as they looked to set up each other and also their team mates. Emmanuel Adebayor is known for his passing, but Roberto Soldado’s ability to create scoring chances has gone unnoticed by a number of commentators. They seem to focus on him solely being a predatory goalscorer who needs to be in the box, rather than a decent linkman that can also create.

Against Southampton, Soldado’s cross for Adebayor set up the opening goal and the pair combined to win the penalty for our first here.

Soldado drifted in to the Stoke inside left channel and was found by a quick vertical pass from Paulinho. With Geoff Cameron slow out to challenge the Spaniard, he had time to turn, lift his head and pick out a ball in to the box for Adebayor drifting behind Ryan Shawcross. Just as he did at Southampton, Ade hit another spectacular volley, but the Stoke defender blocked this one with his arms.


Soldado creates from the inside right channel.

The second arrived after good work by Roberto Soldado once again in the Stoke inside left channel.

This time he received the ball from Emmanuel Adebayor. With Aaron Lennon coming inside, Soldado found Erik Pieters matching up on him, as Stoke were caught playing extremely narrow.


Soldado lays off to Dembele in Stoke’s inside left channel.

Soldado’s layoff this time found Moussa Dembele, who dribbled across the Stoke back four and rifled a shot in to the corner. The run dragged around Steven N’Zonzi and Wilson Palacios, something we’d done all afternoon, but it also highlighted how Dembele always goes left off his dribbles. The strike was also reminiscent of his move for two goals last season against Norwich and Lyon.

After two goals were created from the Stoke inside left channel by Roberto Soldado, the third was scored here, but heavily involved the Spaniard once again.

Christian Eriksen started the sweeping counter attack forward, winning the ball out on the right as he had drifted across the park. Emmanuel Adebayor then burst forward and laid the ball off to Soldado in Stoke’s inside right channel this time.

With Soldado in possession, Geoff Cameron was out of position. This left Ryan Shawcross and Erik Pieters to cope in the centre and Aaron Lennon free in their inside left channel.


Aaron Lennon is free in Stoke’s inside left channel.

Soldado’s ball back inside was meant for Adebayor, but ended up being scuffed in to the path of Lennon who fired home with the help of a deflection, 3-0.

Spurs 3 Stoke 0 conclusions

A good performance and three more Premier League points that see us just a win behind Everton in fourth.

We moved the ball quickly and at tempo, especially through the midfield in order to attack Stoke’s inside left channel. All three of our strikes were either created by a pass or scored through this area, Stoke’s area of weakness due to their stand-in centre back.

Tim Sherwood’s use of his midfield has been rather aggressive in his first four games in charge. All of these have been against mid-table opposition though, so it’ll be interesting to see if he remains as open and uses a quartet against Manchester United.

Final score: Spurs 3 Stoke 0.

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4 Responses to Spurs 3 Stoke 0: Potters’ weak inside left channel exposed

  1. Chris 31st December 2013 at 12:44 am #

    Cool as usual – how do you think Sherwood will line up for ManU and Arsenal then? And should we just have a player take out Charlie Adam the moment he comes on to the field? Might save us another serious injury. *joke*

    I reckon Soldado’s pass was meant for Lennon and Ade just got in the way.

    Also, I noticed that we seem to have something of a problem in that Soldado and Ade make the same runs – for example, they’ll both go near post, or they’ll both drop back – and them seem to get in each other’s way a bit. Thoughts?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 31st December 2013 at 10:39 am #

      For Man Utd, I think he’ll go 4-4-2 but have the midfield play extremely narrow. Newcastle were excellent at Old Trafford with their use of a Tiote, Anita and Cabaye in a very tight central three. They then had Gouffran and Sissoko also tucked in to really get 5 players in this central area, using their full backs to overlap and provide width. I can’t see Sherwood going with Pardew’s approach, but maybe we’ll see something similar to our trip to Southampton with a narrow midfield 4 and Adebayor dropping in to get additional numbers in this zone.

      The Arsenal game concerns me as there has been lots of space between our lines of defence and midfield and this is where the Gooners live. Cazorla, Ozil, Wilshere et al will kill us if we don’t have one of Sandro or Capoue.

      Soldado and Adebayor look like they are figuring out playing together – they probably haven’t had much time in training with Ade being excluded for much of the season. You are right though and they do make the same runs from time-to-time, but at least they’re getting in the box, so i think this’ll iron itself out in time.

  2. Eigo 31st December 2013 at 3:21 am #

    My name’s Eigo,a Japanese Spurs fan!

    Recently I’ve read every article you wrote here.
    This site is very helpful for me,because there is few Spurs’ Pre-and-review articles in Japan and your analysis is very understandable!

    Some time I’ll write my views here,if you don’t mind! :D

    Sorry for my little English ;<
    And thank you a lot for great articles!

    I'm always looking forward to reading your views!


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 31st December 2013 at 10:49 am #

      Konnichiwa Eigo, great to hear from Spurs fans all over the world! Feel free to write your views, in English or Japanese :)